It Is By Teaching That We Teach Ourselves

June 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm (Artist Musings)

Last week, I mused about the apprentice/mentor relationship and two artists I had the privilege to mentor, Cynthia Luhrs and Kimberly Hodes. While I was happy to help both Cynthia and Kimberly by giving them advice and feedback on how to start their craft businesses, neither one of them ever worked with me in the studio.  However, one other young artist did.

Garden Scape Ring by Jessica Papke

In 2004, I met NC State Design student Jessica Papke, also known as Rosy Revolver. Jessica purchased a bracelet from me at Cary’s Ole Time Winter Festival and later contacted me to see if I would meet her for coffee. What started over coffee, ended up being a two year apprenticeship, in which Jessica not only helped me in the studio, but also accompanied me to shows, including the American Craft Council Baltimore Fine Craft Show.

JJ Papke, Valediction Earrings

Today Jessica runs a successful jewelry business, mostly selling her wares to an international audience on Etsy and branding the Rosy Revolver name. She is in the process of building a studio space in Fuquay-Varina, which she calls “heaven on the top floor of an old bank on Main Street.”

Jessica says that working in the studio with me was a dose of inspiration. “I think it was mostly just about learning to pay attention to detail, focus on quality, and constantly striving to expand and improve upon skills,” she says.

“Some of the best advice Lauren ever gave me was to toughen up,  stand by my ideas and not care so much about what others may think,” she adds.

There is no question about how the apprentice/mentor relationship benefits the apprentice. But there are few words to describe how much of a positive impact that relationship has on the mentor.

According to apprenticementor.com, “Mentors have the potential to not only pass on their skills but to give those who could never have the time or the money or the know-how, the ability to invest in their passion. They can ensure that crafts stay alive and vibrant for future generations.”

In my case, teaching Jessica, Cynthia, and Kimberly enabled me to take a fresh look at my own business model, re-evaluate what was working and not working, and re-invest myself in my work.

I think Swiss Philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel said it best.

“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

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